In what was reportedly the most widely read PDF read by believers world-over in recent times, these terribly shocking lines appeared:
‘She reported that he made her pray with him to thank God for the “opportunity” they both received. She said he called her his “reward” for living a life of service to God, and he referenced the “godly men” in the Bible with more than one wife. She said he warned her not ever to speak out against him or she would be responsible for the “millions of souls” whose salvation would be lost if his reputation was damaged.’
These are lines supposedly used by a world-famous evangelist, allegedly, to convince a woman into having a sexual relationship with him. Let’s unpack these lines in the light of the Bible using sound Bible interpretation principles.
Not a god-given opportunity
First of all, sexual activity outside marriage is not a God-given opportunity. Only the false teacher we read about in the Book of Revelation could see sexual immorality as a God-given opportunity. These are Christ’s words of stern rebuke regarding a woman preacher who was part of the church at Thyatira:
‘Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds’ (Rev 2:20–23 NIV).
Jesus does not consider sexual immorality something to thank God for. He never sees it as this fallen preacher allegedly made it to be in his private conversations with the woman regarding his secret sexual relationship. Instead, Jesus reserved the sternest words of judgement on a woman who was leading God’s people into immorality by teaching a twisted theology.
Not a god-sent reward for doing one’s ministry duty
Second, sex outside of marriage can never be a ‘reward for living a life of service to God’. In fact, the Bible teaches God need not even save us from sin, should he choose to do that. Hear the Lord God’s words as recorded by Prophet Zephaniah: ‘Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger’ (Zeph 2:3 NIV). Don’t miss the word ‘perhaps’ in the above-quoted verse. That tells us that even salvation of the soul cannot be demanded by anyone from the Lord God. If we are saved, it is because of God’s sovereign will and demonstrated grace. If we are in the ministry, we have nothing to boast about except the cross of Christ (Gal 6:14). When this is the case, it is ridiculous to think sexual immorality can be a reward for living a life of service to God. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that the Lord will bring judgement upon those who pervert the grace of God into a license for immorality (Jude 3). The Bible proclaims a ‘woe’ on such preachers (Jude 11). The Bible warns that the ‘blackest darkness’ of hell is reserved for such ministers of the Gospel (Jude 13; Matt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30).
No god-given permission for polygamy
Third, there is nothing in the Bible that can make us think that God would be okay with it if we have more than one spouse (as this fallen evangelist supposedly argued to convince a woman to have a sexual relationship with him). This is not only a case of plain sexual immorality but also a clear-case of scripture-twisting for personal convenience. Clear passages of the Old Testament are enough to teach us that God’s will for humankind is this: one man marries one woman and they both stay faithful to each other. We don’t even need to go to the New Testament to grasp this. Genesis 2:24 says, ‘a’ man (one man) ‘leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife’ (not wives). Psalm 128:3 says, ‘Your wife (not wives) will be like a fruitful vine.’ Malachi 2:14 says, ‘The Lord is the witness between you and the wife (not wives) of your youth’. Malachi 2:15 says, ‘Do not be unfaithful to the wife (not wives) of your youth’. Let’s get back to sound Bible interpretation! Let’s get back to holy living!
No call for suppression of news about secret adultery
This preacher apparently warned the woman with whom he had a secret sexual relationship this way: if ever she revealed to anyone that she has been having a secret sexual relationship with him, she would be responsible for the millions of souls whose salvation would be lost if his reputation was damaged. This supposed warning from this preacher is from the pit of hell! It is not scriptural. The Bible teaches in Ephesians 5:11 that we must not hide, but rather expose the deeds of darkness : ‘Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them’. 1Timothy 5:17 calls for a double honour for church elders (preachers-teachers of the Word in our context) who do a good job. But if folks of the same tribe persisted in sin, they should be publicly ‘rebuked’ (a public rebuke is like a double punishment) so that others who are thinking of living such a double life will ‘fear’ a similar treatment. This can be gathered if we read just three verses below (in 1 Timothy 5:20)! Preachers not only get to choose the privilege of double honour when they do well. They also must be ready to face the responsibility of receiving double punishment/discipline when it can be shown that they are guilty of living in persistent sin. This lesson cannot be missed if we read the Bible in context. We read everything else in context, instinctively. For example, if we Indians hear the name, ‘Shah Rukh Khan’, we now ask, ‘Shah Rukh Khan, the Bollywood actor? Or Shah Rukh Khan, the Tamil Nadu explosive cricket batsman who was bagged for a Rs.5.25 Crore fee by the Punjab Kings for the 2021 IPL Season?’ In the same way, we must read the Bible also in context lest we miss crucial truths.
So, none of the excuses this famous evangelist gave to carry out a secret sexual affair stand the test of sound scriptural interpretation. Let us choose to shun a hypocritical life which will take us to hell. Did not Jesus warn the Pharisees, the hypocrites of his day, in this way: ‘You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?’ (Matt 23:33). Let us choose the narrow road of holiness (Matt 7:13–14).
This kind of ministry cannot lead to lethargy
In a much-read Christianity Today article published on the same matter on September 29, 2020, the same preacher allegedly used a similar excuse to get into a phone-sexting relationship with another woman. In 2016 this woman wrote the following, “He stated so many times to me that the cost of ministry has been very high, that none of his time is his own, he has no privacy, no personhood left” (the quote has been slightly altered to maintain the anonymity of the preacher and the woman). She added that famous preacher-apologist assured her that the Lord understood what he had sacrificed and implied their sexual exchanges were God’s way of rewarding him.
The above paragraph implies that, for this preacher, doing ministry left a huge vacuum in his heart which he wanted to fill with a secret sexual relationship outside marriage. Ministry is not something we do! Ministry should be an overflow of our love for Jesus. Nothing more. Nothing less. That is why when Jesus chose his disciples he mentioned “being with him” before he mentioned “preaching about him” (Mark 3:14). Let’s get back to falling in love with Jesus all over again! When we do that ministry will be a pleasure, and never a “pressure” for which we need find a sinful sexual release— which would only make the vacuum in the heart even more voluminous.